This case study involves one of our regulatory lawyers who was recently involved in a cash seizure cash involving a powerful government body.
Client was arrested and found in possession of a large amount of cash (over £200,000) in circumstances which suggested the police had prior intelligence – this was not a random find.
The police had little they were wanting to disclose at the PACE interview by way of evidence and the right decision was a “no comment” interview. In the absence of any explanation of the source of the cash the police detained the cash under their Proceeds of Crime Act powers.
In due course the police declared that there would be no charges brought but that they would apply to the local Magistrates Court for a forfeiture order in respect of the cash.
It is important to bear in mind that whilst these are civil proceedings they are unusual in that: (a) they are conducted in a criminal court, namely a Magistrates Court, and (b) the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 do not apply. This has an important impact at a strategic level for this reason: the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 require the progress and case management of a case to be strictly adhered to. If proceedings are not formally and comprehensively defended a defence will be struck out; if full witness statements are not prepared in compliance with the order of the court you can forget about bringing in late evidence.
As it is, cash forfeiture provides litigants the opportunity to hold their cards to their chest and ‘ambush’ the authorities. This is what happened in this case.
A late comprehensive witness statement was filed and served providing a credible back story as to where the cash came from – importantly providing the police with insufficient time to make any serious attempts at debunking its truthfulness.
And then the coup de grace: the police were found out telling lies to the Court about the reasons that lead them to the place of arrest in the first place. It is said that one lie begets another and so it was that the cover up manifested itself before the Magistrate
Shortly before the police confirmed that they would not continue with their application for forfeiture the Magistrate had required them to reveal sources of intelligence that they were simply not prepared to disclose in open court.
Result: all cash returned together with payment of legal fees.
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